A church always functions best and most faithfully when its members live out the teachings of Jesus. While it’s important for believers to think rightly, it’s perhaps even more critical that they live rightly. As the old saying goes, “Anyone can talk a good game.” What turns heads and hearts, especially in this day when people no longer grant as much respect to the church as in day’s past, is for people to align their verbal confession with their behavioral one.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is our primary denominational partner. As you know, CBF sees Mountain Brook Baptist Church as one of the most accomplished congregations associated with their “denomi-network.” In fact, our John Scott now serves as a member of CBF’s Governing Board, which is responsible for the administrative work of the entire body.
By now I would imagine that you’ve finished making your list of resolutions for 2020. If your list is like mine, it tends to be a recycled one. Somehow we get the feeling that every January we’ll find a renewed dedication to doing things we know are in our best interest, but always seem to be unduly difficult to complete.
As we begin a new year, chances are good that most of us have given at least some thought to New Year’s Resolutions. It may be that you have totally given up on the practice of making resolutions at the start of a new year because you have failed to follow through with plans for self improvement in years past. However, I would venture to guess that even the most cynical among us stands on the brink of this new year with at least a glimmer of hope that we will make positive progress in some area of our lives in 2020.
While I come to each New Year with some amount of disbelief and unpreparedness, there are some years when my shock level is simply beyond measurement. For example, I think back to the year 2000, when everyone was warning of cataclysmic computer crashes and the subsequent turmoil that would inevitably ensue. None of that came to be, of course, and life pretty much went on as it always had. But there was still this palpable trepidation prior to January 1 that some unforeseen reality would dawn that none of us would be quite ready to receive.
We’ve all felt the itch at some point to shake a gift under the Christmas tree that has our name on it to see if we can guess what’s inside. Or even more to the point, consider those times you’ve been involved in one of those “Santa Exchange” games where you draw a number and pick a present. Isn’t it the case that, more times than not, when your number comes up, you go for the gift that is larger than the rest? Packaging exerts a pull on our heartstrings that is hard to ignore.
I can remember the days when decorating for Christmas was a relatively simple affair – a lighted tree, a wreath on the front door, candles in the windows. That was pretty much it. Nowadays, it has become quite the affair with the aforementioned decorations accompanied by a host of other seasonal props. There are now companies you can call who will do your decorating for you, from stringing lights on your rooftop to arranging illumined reindeer on your lawn.
I don’t like darkness. I know some people do, but I prefer things to be bright and clear. The darkness scares me. It scares me because of those unknown threats that I can’t make out; and it scares me more because of the darkness that lurks in my soul. I don’t think I’m alone with this dislike. There are a host of others who join me in ruing this time of the year when the days are shorter and the shadows lengthen.
I dare say that there aren’t many of us who enjoy having to wait. Who among us has the patience to while away the hours when we have so many other important matters to address? And yet waiting is a part of life that we cannot seem to avoid. Whether it’s a checkout line or a traffic jam or a cue to enter an event, a good part of our emotional maturity involves learning how to handle those moments when everything seems to have come to a screeching halt.
When it comes to our thanksgiving, most of us do so retrospectively. We look back at what has taken place and we feel a rush of gratitude not only for what came our way, but also for what we were able to avoid. As the saying goes, “Some of the prayers that are answered best are those that are never answered.” At the time we may have thought we knew what was in our best interest, but in reality we had no idea what we were asking and we are blessed that what we hoped for never materialized. It might be a good source of spiritual discipline for you to make that kind of list as you “count your many blessings!”